Laura Spencer | KCUR

Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Ways to Connect

Bloch News / UMKC

Fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, was found dead in her New York City apartment on Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that she died by suicide. 

She was born Katherine Noel Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, and graduated from St. Teresa's Academy. She went on to attend the University of Kansas, and switched to Arizona State University. That's where she met her future husband, Andy Spade.

Centric Projects/Kansas City Repertory Theatre

A $50 million funding proposal for a new building for the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, sponsored by Rep. Noel Shull, R-Kansas City, never made it out of committee during the Missouri General Assembly session that just ended.

Shull proposed the legislation after now-former Gov. Eric Greitens' 2017 veto of $48 million in state bond funding for a downtown Conservatory campus (also sponsored by Shull).

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Sometimes, spending time with family can change your life’s direction. That's what happened when one trip to Missouri rooted entrepreneur Faruk Capan, and his business, in the Midwest. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include developments at Thursday's City Council meeting.

This week marked the deadline for Kansas City's troubled American Jazz Museum to respond to the city's request to change its staff and board leadership in order to be eligible for city funds.

Joshua Wiener

Merriam City Council members on Monday approved a new public art project by a close vote of 5-4.

The sculpture, "Hmmm..." is designed by Colorado-based artist Joshua Wiener. A nine-foot tall caterpillar stands next to a 12-foot cairn, a stack of granite river boulders, with a butterfly perched on top. Weiner's proposal was selected by a resident-led arts committee that reviewed 45 submissions. 

Paul Sableman / Flickr - Creative Commons

Besides being refuges for book lovers and places to surf the Internet and check out music and movies, libraries are increasingly becoming entrepreneurial hubs. 

Helix Architecture + Design

The University of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday announced the merger of two arts programs: the Conservatory of Music and Dance and the Department of Theatre. 

The theater department will move from the College of Arts and Sciences to a school in the Conservatory, according to an email to faculty and staff written by UMKC Interim Chancellor and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer.

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

Vi Tran’s journey has taken him from Vietnam to refugee camps in southeast Asia to Garden City, Kansas, and finally to a burger joint in Kansas City, Missouri, where he began telling his story and created a space for others' stories in all types of formats.

Past a row of pinball machines, at the back of the Westport Flea Market Bar & Grill, is a large room with concrete floors, black tablecloths draped over round tables, the smell of burgers and a bare-bones stage.

Nightryder84 / Wikimedia--CC

The Kansas City Star laid off 10 newsroom employees on Tuesday, McClatchy Company spokeswoman Jeanne Segal confirmed. McClatchy operates 30 daily newspapers across the country, including the Star.

Clint Ashlock

Musicians have a lot at stake when it comes to the future of the American Jazz Museum.

"Please take the artist into consideration first, and foremost," bandleader and percussionist Pablo Sanhueza urged members of the Kansas City Council's finance and governance committee at an April 25 hearing to chart a course forward for the troubled museum.

Lonny Quattlebaum

Kansas City blues and soul singer Danielle Nicole has a new release, her second solo album, called "Cry No More." For this latest recording, Nicole said she trusted herself and took some chances. She wrote nine of the 14 tracks, including a song about her late father, "Bobby." 

Before she fronted her own band, Nicole sang and played bass in Trampled Under Foot, a blues trio with her brothers, Kris and Nick Shnebelen. 

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

More than 50 people, including artists, musicians, former American Jazz Museum employees and volunteers packed a Kansas City Council committee meeting on Wednesday to voice their concerns or support for the troubled museum.

The council's finance and governance committee had a lot of ground to cover during the three-hour session.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Two Kansas City Council members on Thursday introduced very different resolutions in response to a consultant's report suggesting drastic measures to address financial and other problems at the American Jazz Museum. 

UMKC

On Wednesday morning, University of Missouri-Kansas City officials announced that "some of our ranks will be leaving UMKC." 

An email interim chancellor and provost Barbara Bichelmeyer sent to faculty and staff stated that the university had worked for months "to reduce our deficit and to make strategic investments." And, she said, with a new fiscal year approaching, it was "time to act on these decisions."

Open Spaces, a two-month citywide celebration of visual and performing arts, is slated to launch in August.

Artistic director Dan Cameron announced the names of the 42 local, national and international exhibiting artists Friday. Some artists were invited, but others were selected out of a pool of more than 400 applicants. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The co-working space in south Overland Park where Neelima Parasker has set up shop includes the amenities young, energetic and collaborative workers want: a coffee bar, stadium-like seating with oversized comfy chairs, offices next to windows and a ping-pong table where two 20-somethings are joking around. 

"Right now, this is my office and then my team starts here. The senior staff sits here," says Parasker, president and CEO of SnapIT Solutions. Parasker started the company in May 2016, and moved into this collaborative space in 2017. 

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

A day after a consultants' report suggested that the American Jazz Museum is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum" and suggested a temporary closure, the museum's board of directors met at the Gem Theater to parse the critical assessment of the museum's finances, leadership and exhibits.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Consultants hired by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, to assess the wellbeing of the American Jazz Museum on Monday recommended closing the museum temporarily.

The museum, according to the consultants' report, is "in need of complete rethinking, akin to starting a new museum." The report called for a "complete rebirth, starting with its leadership, but continuing with a revamped financial model, visitor experience, and operational infrastructure."

Kansas City trumpeter and tap dancer Lonnie McFadden has been performing since he was in grade school.

He's known as half of the act called The McFadden Brothers; Lonnie and his brother Ronald play music, sing and tap dance — carrying on a family tradition started by their father, dancer and performer Smilin' Jimmy McFadden.  

courtesy: Helix Architecture + HGA Architects

The Missouri Legislature might once again consider funding for a proposed downtown campus of the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

Clinton, Missouri, Fire Department

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

Updated 10:25 a.m.

The Missouri Highway Patrol has identified the Clinton Police Officer killed in the line of duty last night as 30-year-old Officer Christopher Ryan Morton.

Morton served as a full-time officer for the Clinton Police Department for two years beginning in 2015. Before that he was a specialist for the Army National Guard. He was deployed twice overseas, serving in Afghanistan as a bridge crew member and a radio communications manager.

courtesy: Robert Stewart

Robert Stewart has nurtured a lot of up-and-coming writers over the decades he's spent as an editor at New Letters magazine and as a writing instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

In December, Stewart released a new book of his own poetry. He called it "Working Class" in recognition of his roots as well as the blue-collar ethos he brings to writing.  

Park University

Laurel Gagnon, a graduate student at Park University's International Center for Music, placed fourth at the Singapore International Violin Competition earlier this month. This distinction comes with a cash prize and a loan of a rare violin. 

Only 34 musicians, and just five from the United States, were invited to perform in the competition, which is open to violinists under the age of 30. And only six musicians advanced to the finals of the contest, which ran from Jan. 28 through Feb. 8. 

courtesy Ragtag Film Society

A committee of budget-controlling Missouri Senators recommends continuing to fund the arts at current levels through the ongoing use of a tax on out-of-state performers. 

On Tuesday, the Ways and Means committee advanced Senate Bill 773 by a 6 to 1 vote. This legislation extends a 2 percent tax on non-resident professional athletes and entertainers for another 10 years. 

courtesy: Kauffman Foundation

Each Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., between 100 to 200 people gather at Kansas City's Kauffman Foundation to hear a few entrepreneurs pitch their startups. Throughout February the lineup is focused on black-owned businesses in honor of Black History Month. 

"1 Million Cups has traditionally been the entry point into the entrepreneurial community here in Kansas City, one of the many," says Adrienne Haynes, who attends the events so frequently that she describes herself as a "1 Million Cups caffeinator."

Courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library

Henry Fortunato, a charismatic shaper of Kansas City's intellectual and history communities, died on Monday. He was 62.

Fortunato's most high-profile role was as public affairs director at the Kansas City Public Library from 2006 to 2015. During his nine-year career, the library said in a statement, Fortunato "revolutionized library programming" and, working with Library Director Crosby Kemper III, helped the library earn local, regional, and national attention.

J. Robert Schraeder / Courtesy of The Coterie Theatre

Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem witch trials to bullying. Her latest play, The Secret of Courage, explores a teenager facing a health crisis ... with a little help from a magical world.

courtesy: National World War I Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial on Friday announced a big debut for its $5 million Wylie Gallery. The new 3,500-square-foot space inside the museum, set to open on February 23, will feature one of the world’s largest war-related paintings: John Singer Sargent’s Gassed

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

In the early 20th century, people didn't have a lot of options for making the tradition of unwrapping gifts more festive. They'd cover packages with brown shipping paper or newspaper, or sometimes wallpaper or fabric.

Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards, Inc., gets credit for starting the modern-day gift wrap industry 100 years ago, an invention created out of necessity during the holiday season. 

courtesy: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art's third location, Kemper at the Crossroads, has closed. 

"An exhibition on display there was scheduled to close on Saturday, December 2," says Breeze Richardson, director of marketing and communications. "It felt like the most appropriate way to frame the closing, not installing a subsequent exhibition."

A sale of the property has been negotiated but not finalized, she adds.

Pages